Formed by Ian Asbury (vocals), who grew up in Scotland and then in Canada (where he gained exposure to the culture of the Native Indians at the Six Nations Reserve). After moving to Bradford, Yorkshire, England he met a band rehearsing in a basement containing the members Haq Quereshi (drums), David 'buzz' Burrows (guitar) and Barry Jepson (bass). He joined in as vocalist and their rise to stardom took a decided leap for the better.
Their fifth gig, at London's Haven Club, received an audience of over 2,000! As Southern Death Cult (a name chosen from a newspaper headline), they made their recording debut with a double 'A'-side single in 1982 titled Fatman/Moya, and supported Bauhaus on tour the next year. By March of that year they folded because Ashbury was upset at their image of being 'positive Punk', and that his Native American concept was being 'watered down' by the rest of the band. Their debut (and only album) under their original configuration, Southern Death Cult (1983), was released in January of 1983 posthumously.
His new band, under the truncated name of Death Cult, comprised the rhythm section of Ritual, a recently departed Gothic band, in the form of Ray 'The Reverend' Mondo (drums) and Jamie Stewart (bass). Billy Duffy (ex-Ed Banger And The Nosebleeds/ex-Theatre Of Hate; guitar) joined in shortly after. This reformed line-up made its recording debut on a self-titled 12 inch. Ashbury who was using the name Ian Lindsay (his mother's maiden name) used his own from this point on. Shortly later, an appearance at the Futurama festival encouraged Mondo to give his drum stood over to Nigel Preston (ex-SexGang Children), a former band mate of Duffy's in Theatre Of Hate. 1984 would see the final name change for the act, which feared that the 'Death' prefix typecast them as a Gothic act so they dropped it in favor of just Cult.
Its sales boosted by a number one in the independent charts for the anthemic Spiritwalker single, they released their new debut album, Dreamtime in 1984. She Sells Sanctuary, as a single, would follow close behind on the charts the following year. Mark Brzezicki of Big Country took over Preston's spot for the studio sessions of the follow-up recording until Les Warner permanently took over the spot.
Love (1985) proved to be the act's coming out onto the scene. It featured full-bodied Hard Rock tracks and strong guitaring. She Sells Sanctuary, now a track on the album, hit the charts high as did Rain. Electric (1987) completed the metamorphosis to a Hard Rock act leaving little clue as to their inspirations. Produced, in part by Rick Rubin, it proved to be a bold and strong statement. It became a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, receiving a 4 in the U.S. and a 38 in the U.K. (I guess the Brits. are harder to impress). The track gone single, Love Removal Machine, wouldprove to be one of their biggest hits; it was inspired by Ian Ashbury's thoughts on the work of a 60-year-old stripper he watched one night at a military social club.
The follow-up gigs saw Stewart switch to rhythm guitar and Kid 'Haggis' Chaos (Real Name: Mark Manning; ex-Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction) take his old position. But he and Warner would soon after be disposed of entirely, with the former joining 4 Horsemen. Now reduced to a three piece of Ashbury, Duffy and Stewart they needed a drummer so they hired Micky Curry for the recording sessions of Sonic Temple (1989). The album would merge the energy of Electric with the passion of Love. It didn't matter on the quality or content, for their past success made thema name brand outfit guaranteeing success, and indeed, Ceremony (1991) made it at 9 U.K./25 U.S. despite the complaints accusing it of being listless, but the follow-up best of compilation, Pure Cult (1993), made it to #1. In 1994 they reunited with producer Bob Rock to create their self-titled The Cult in to equal appeal. It contained a tribute to Kurt Cobain titled Sacred Life amongst its tracks with the new membership of Ashbury and Duffy with Craig Adams (ex-Sisters Of Mercy/ex-Mission; bass) and Scott Garrett (drums) but shortly after the act broke up after canceling their 1994 tour due to newly recruitedguitarist James Stevenson suddenly leaving to return to his former act, the reforming Gene Loves Jezebel.
The act continued on with Ashbury, Scott Garrett, brother Matt Garrett (bass) and Patrick Sugg (ex-Lucifer Wong; guitar/vocals) under the name Holy Barbarians to release the one-off Cream (1996) before Ashbury released the Spirit/Light/Speed album in 2000 on his self-named effort along with musicians John Roome and Chris Goss (of Watchmen).
The Cult reformed in 2001 to release Beyond Good And Evil with Ashbury, Duffy and Sorum back in form.